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Jun 25 05 4:15 PM
"This is a huge warning to kids and parents about the real danger of
putting that first cigarette into your mouth," says Canadian Cancer Society researcher Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin.
In a study involving more than 1,200 Montreal high school students,
O'Loughlin and her research team found that even teens who smoked only once or twice reported symptoms of nicotine dependence.
Up to one-third report some of the more common symptoms of nicotine dependence including "difficulty not smoking when friends
smoke" and "feeling a real need to smoke."
The study also found that girls consistently reported more symptoms of
addiction than boys, even though they smoked a similar amount of cigarettes. Furthermore, nicotine dependence may be a stronger
factor in why teens start smoking than the fact that their friends and family members smoke.
"This is important news because it challenges the current idea that it
takes kids two to three years of daily smoking to develop nicotine dependence," says O'Loughlin, a researcher at McGill
University and the Direction de la santé publique in Montreal-Centre.
O'Loughlin has been following the Montreal teens for four years. Her
research team used questionnaires to measure their smoking patterns and nicotine dependence including withdrawal symptoms and
This work is the first part of a six-year study that will examine both
genetic and environmental factors involved in nicotine dependence in kids.
O'Loughlin says more investigation is required during the remaining two
years of her study, but she's confident her findings provide strong evidence of the major role nicotine dependence plays in the
smoking onset process for adolescents.
"It's further proof that when it comes to kids, you can't start
prevention education or cessation programs early enough."
Cheryl Moyer, Director of Cancer Control Programs for the Canadian Cancer
Society, adds, "This research demonstrates why the stop-smoking message doesn't always get through to teens who have
started smoking. Their physical addiction can be a stronger influence than peer pressure. This will be a great help in developing
more effective smoking cessation programs for kids."
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in Canada. In 2002, 22
per cent of teens aged 15-19 reported themselves as smokers. Sixteen percent were daily smokers while six per cent were occasional
smokers. Slightly more teen girls reported smoking than boys - 23 per cent vs. 21 per cent.
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of
volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. The Canadian
Cancer Society is the largest charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. Excellent research is funded through a rigorous
national review process managed by its research partner, the National Cancer Institute of Canada.
More relevant for our members though is this research is showing the addictive potential of nicotine. If just one cigarette has the potential of
starting the addictive process in a child who had no previous first hand exposure to smoking, think about what it will do to a person who has years or
decades of a past smoking history. Many of our members already know from first hand experience what "just one" puff did to what were previous
The message for kids who have never smoked and adults who have long smoking histories needs to be the same. To never get caught in the grip of an active
nicotine addiction it is imperative that everyone understands that the only way to guarantee that a person can stay smoke free is for that person to never
take another puff!
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